EspañolOnly three hours after going live on the internet on Wednesday morning, the Cuban government blocked access to 14ymedio, the first independent news outlet in Cuba in 50 years. Visitors to the site instead find themselves redirected to a website with hostile messages towards its creator and newspaper reporter, Yoani Sánchez.
As described in its mission statement, the online newspaper seeks to “break the information monopoly on the island and support the necessary transition.” The outlet says those involved are dedicated to democratic principles and a commitment to “truth, freedom, and human rights, without partisan or ideological allegiance.”
In an introductory post, “To Have Bigger Dreams,” the famous blogger wrote: “Today, I have achieved a dream … a journalistic space, accompanied by several colleagues. It is born out of a desire to reach many readers in and out of Cuba, to offer a full spectrum of news, opinion, and information about the reality of our island. It will take a lot of work, no doubt. We will grow slowly, and try to ensure quality with all content published.”
With regard to the launch of the outlet, the blogger said via Twitter to over 600,000 followers that she was happy to see this dream come true. She also said that Cuba’s strategy to redirect her website was a bad one, because “there is nothing more attractive than the forbidden.”
— Yoani Sánchez (@yoanisanchez) May 21, 2014
A computer technician explained to the PanAm Post that what happened to 14ymedio was like taking an address out of a phone book. The Cuban government appears to have blocked access to the site by blocking the IP, a protocol that assigns a unique number to computers connected to the internet, of the server that hosts 14ymedio. No computer or IP address that is connected through a provider controlled by Cuba is be able to access the site.
The IP address is only blocked from connection requests originating from a point on a network controlled by the government. To circumvent the block, users would need to use what is called a “proxy.” However, in this case, that has also been blocked.
Freedom of the Press?
The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) issued a statement yesterday condemning the Cuban government’s censorship of independent media.
“While the move is not surprising, the world expected more tolerance from the government of Raul Castro, considering his efforts to show a more positive image, more open to attract greater attention from the international community,” said Pablo Paolillo, president of the Freedom of the Press and Information Commission of the IAPA.
Paolillo further stated: “Unfortunately, this censorship shows that the Cuban government continues to believe that freedom of expression is a concession made by the authorities, not a natural human right.”
Meanwhile, the Cuban government has not released an official statement on this matter specifically. The only related comments came Wednesday, by Edda Diz, during the 40th anniversary of the National Information Agency (AIN).
Director Diz said that the agency cannot provide a space for slander, misrepresentation, and malicious omissions in the country, considering this part of the political and ideological subversion against Cuba.
#Cuba Nos inspiramos en los grandes periodistas de esta nación. Especialmente en los que en esta etapa han roto la censura, como Raúl Rivero
— 14ymedio (@14ymedio) May 21, 2014
Given the restrictions, the new online media outlet will be also distributed by hand on hard drives and sent via email.
The site is counting on its funding of US$150,000 from anonymous donations and is focused on providing a space for dissenting voices on the island. According to Sánchez’s husband, Reinaldo Escobar, the digital newspaper is financed by national and international investors and has sufficient funds to survive for one year.
The purpose of the outlet is to “inform, opine, provide an open space for debate, respect those who think differently, helping to bring free speech and civic responsibility together.”
14ymedio has also had the support and backing of several writers, journalists, and intellectuals who signed a statement welcoming the new media outlet.
“Writers and journalists from around the world, we call on the Cuban government to respect the right of this media outlet to exist and be distributed. We ask you not to limit freedom of expression and the right of citizens to information.”
Among those who signed the statement were the Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, former Polish President Lech Walesa, the writer Carlos Montaner, Arturo Ripstein, and Fernando Trueba.